Naknek Lake, Alaska, USA
Naknek Lake is located southwest of Anchorage on the Alaskan Peninsula. The lake is the fifth largest in Alaska, covering 144,315 acres* in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness. The lake is the largest in the national park system and a prime destination for nature lovers, being especially known for its bear viewing, volcanic sightseeing, fishing, and boating.
Surrounding Lake Naknek is the Katmai National Park and Preserve, a 3.7 million acre wilderness area and a place of archaeological and historical significance. The area contains the greatest concentrations of prehistoric dwellings in Alaska. Katmai includes 15 of Alaska’s 70 active volcanoes, and was the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Katmai contains three distinct land areas: the coastline of the Shelikof Strait, the mountains of the Aleutian Range, and the lake region that includes Naknek Lake. The land contains both tundra and forests, making it habitable for a variety of wildlife including caribou, moose, bear, wolves, and red fox, as well as waterfowl such as tundra swans, ducks, and loons. Sea lions, sea otters, and whales can be seen along the coastline of the park. The park is mainly undisturbed wilderness, and there are only two marked hiking trails: one at Ukak Falls, and another at Dumpling Mountain, which overlooks Naknek Lake. Backcountry hiking and camping are options for experienced adventurers, or with the aid of an expert guide. Travel within the park is not easy; most visitors to Katmai arrive via a commercial flight from Anchorage. Charter air taxis and boat tours are available for visitors, and most local inns and lodges provide transportation for their guests.
Near Lake Naknek is Brooks Camp, a place known for some of the best bear watching in the world. Alaskan brown bears can be found in large numbers here, attracted by the sockeye salmon that migrate by the thousands from the Pacific Ocean through Bristol Bay and Naknek Lake to their spawning grounds in Brooks Lake. The best spot for viewing the bears is at Brooks Falls, where dozens of bears can be seen at a time fishing for salmon in the waterfall and swimming in the waters below the falls. Viewing platforms give visitors an excellent view of the falls and are a prime spot for photography.
The shores of Naknek Lake are also home to a unique geological feature known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. The eruption of the Novarupta Volcano in 1912, the largest eruption of the 20th century, covered the Ukak River Valley with 40 square miles of ash and debris to a depth of hundreds of feet. The water in the valley became superheated, discharging steam up to 500 feet in the air and giving the valley its distinctive name. Although the valley no longer smokes, many visitors travel each year to tour the area and hike the valley.
Fishing is a popular activity at Naknek Lake. The lake is especially known for its sockeye salmon, and by the end of July nearly a million salmon have made their way to the lake and its surrounding tributaries to spawn. Rainbow trout also reach an impressive size in the lake by feeding off the abundant salmon eggs. The lake is also home to arctic char, arctic grayling, dolly varden, lake trout, and northern pike. Many local lodges and fishing guides are available to cater to visiting anglers. Canoeing and kayaking are also popular activities at Lake Naknek. The lake’s glacial waters are pristine, and paddlers can put to shore and explore the rocky islands protruding from the lake’s waters. Many paddlers also boat the Savonoski Loop, an 80 mile circuit that includes boating on Naknek Lake as well as other connecting rivers and lakes. This trip provides stunning scenery of the wilderness and wildlife surrounding Naknek Lake.
Naknek Lake promises the trip of a lifetime for those lucky enough to pay a visit. From its stunning scenery to its remarkable wildlife, the Naknek area is home to sights that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. If you have a passion for the great outdoors, Naknek Lake is the ideal place to plan your great Alaskan adventure.
*Acreage figures are from the Alaskan Department of Hydrology. Shoreline lengths are not given as most of Alaska’s large lakes have ill-defined shorelines. Water collecting in the lakes does not pass through the permafrost level and thus must either dissipate via evaporation or river drainage. Most shorelines are seasonal wetlands, and their size depends on the amount of snow-melt and precipitation. Many lakes have no outlet, so water simply continues to collect there, causing the lake to grow larger.
Things to do at Naknek Lake
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Park
Fish species found at Naknek Lake
- Dolly Varden Trout
- Lake Trout
- Northern Pike
- Rainbow Trout
- Sockeye Salmon
Naknek Lake Photo Gallery
Naknek Lake Statistics & Helpful Links
Spread the word! Share our Naknek Lake article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!